Ted Castronova, Dmitri Williams, Cuihua Shen, Yun Huang, Brian Keegan, Robby Ratan and Li Xiong have published a paper dealing with the economy of EverQuest II based on analyses of huge amouts of log data. See Dmitri’s post at Terra Nova. Congrats! I know it must have been a huge amount of work.
I don’t quite agree with their concept of mapping and the idea of talking about MMOs as if they were somehow worlds apart from the real world, but the paper offers an extremely nice quantitative view into some of the internal workings of a MMORPG economy. HIIT’s Tuukka Lehtiniemi published similar work on macroeconomic indicators in EVE Online last year in his Master’s thesis (including some criticism of applying the concept of GDP to a virtual economy, which Castronova et al. should perhaps have a look at).
It’s been almost customary for social science oriented papers dealing with MMOs to at least mention the idea of using MMOs as a large-scale research platform to contribute something to social sciences. With this work on EQII and EVE, it looks like the tools are starting to be in place — perhaps that contribution is not too far off.
Castronova, E., Williams, D., Huang, Y., Shen, C., Keegan, B., Ratan, R. (2009). As real as real? Macroeconomic behavior in a large-scale virtual world. New Media & Society. 11(5) p. 685-707.